A Talisman of Fire

The Letter Shin, © photograph by Quinn McDonald. Sterling pendant by Su Keates.

The Letter Shin, © photograph by Quinn McDonald. Sterling pendant by Su Keates.

Another talisman has come into my life, this one through the skill and talent of Su Keates, a silversmith from New Zealand. Su listens and then brings her own vision to the creation of a piece.

This piece was going to be hard. I wanted to have an abstraction of the Hebrew letter shin, the 21st letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The letter has many meanings and associations. The word shin literally means teeth or bite, but that’s not the hidden meaning I am drawn to.

Shin has three points, often said to represent

A traditional rendering of the Hebrew letter shin.

A traditional rendering of the Hebrew letter shin.

kindness, justice and mercy. In one kabbalistic interpretation, the three stalks represent the flash of an idea, understanding, and application of knowledge. Now that is a meaning I can spend time with.

What I love is the number of words begin with the letter shin (in Hebrew). The word for peace, shalom. The word for hear, or listen, sh’ma. The word for the day ordained as a day of rest, Shabbat. Then there is sun (shemesh) and change, and year, and rest.

Shin is a mother letter, and it represents fire. So I wanted this talisman to look like fire. The letter is heard in the first phrase of the Bible, “In the beginning.” How could I not find this letter a talisman for my work as a coach, helping people change? Or my work as a writer, helping people heal and rest from the scars of their life?

It’s new and ancient and I can already tell it has power and life.

Quinn McDonald is a writer and a creativity coach who helps people reinvent themselves.


Diabetic-Friendly Snack

As a diabetic, I’m always on the lookout for a satisfying snack that can carry me through, fill me up, cut my cravings and be healthy. That’s a big order for a snack.

Nana1I like bananas, and although they are fine for diabetics, I can’t scarf down three of them in a sitting. One-half cup has 15 grams of carbs. (I eat about 25 carbs at breakfast and lunch, less at dinner.) But I’m not eating half a cup of bananas at one sitting. That’s what makes this a great snack.

Slice the banana into thin slices–about 1/4-inch thick. You don’t have to use a ruler, just make them all about the same thickness.

Place the bananas on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and freeze for several hours. You want them to be hard, frozen all the way through. If they are still wet or slick, this technique won’t work.

Melt a high-quality chocolate (I used a Lindt bar, with 70 percent cocoa) over (not in) hot water. Here’s how you do that: take a  one-quart cooking pot, fill it 3/4 full of water and fit a stainless steel bowl onto the pot so that it fits across the top rather than floating in the water. It’s important that no water splashes into the chocolate, as it will seize and not work for the recipe.

Nana2Melt the chocolate in the stainless steel bowl. Do this slowly. The water should be hot, but not boiling. The chocolate should be smooth and glossy, not grainy.

nana3Use a fork to scoop up (not stab) a frozen slice of banana and place it in the chocolate. Coat it on both sides, then use the fork and pick up the banana slice and place it carefully on top of a plain (un-chocolated) slice.

nana4The two slices will immediately freeze together, so there is no slipping or chocolate mess. That’s the genius of this snack–it’s easy to make and produces very little mess.

nana5Once you have every plain banana slice covered with a chocolate one, put them back in the freezer until they are completely hard. Transfer to a plastic bag. Eat them frozen, it makes them last longer and you get a much better flavor of melting chocolate and banana as your mouth warms them up. I eat two (total of four banana slices) for a snack. It calms down my craving, gives me a chocolate fix, and doesn’t jerk my blood sugar around. (Test this yourself. Your results could vary.)

The rest of the chocolate in the bowl can be refrigerated and re-used next time. Or, you can eat it with a spoon while it’s still warm, but that may raise your blood sugar higher than you like.

Quinn McDonald is a diabetic who craves good chocolate.




Pressing Matters

© Quinn McDonald, 2016

© Quinn McDonald, 2016

We sit pressed close
breathing each other’s air
Knees and thighs touching
arms exploring, nudging, shyly avoiding eye contact.

In another world, we’d be lovers
canoodling up some turbulence.
Here we are strangers
Wordlessly skirmishing over arm rests at 35,000 feet.

Quinn McDonald is a practitioner of poetic medicine.

Taxi Story 516

From airport to hotel
it’s 45 minutes of dark freeway.
I’m hoping for one memorable taxi story.

One time the driver was drunk
and screaming.
I screamed louder and he
set me out in the middle of the road
and left me there.

But not tonight.
Tonight the driver wrapped me in his easy smile
and used his musical voice to stash my bag
confidently into his cab’s back seat.

Five minutes later, my taxi story started
with him telling me about his life
driving strangers
through rain and fog and life uncertain.

His dream, he sighed, was med school, “But it’s so expensive,”
so he works a double shift on weekends,
stoking his mojo to clear the path ahead.

He asked me what I did for work.
“I”m a writer,” I said,
speaking my big truth into the dark,
hoping it was still true.

He had a book in him, he said,
and I thought, “More than one, for sure.”
He asked if I wrote poetry,
and I held my breath before I said,
“I do.”
It sounded like a vow.

“I do not understand poetry so much,” he said,
and when I asked, “What poets do you read?” he said,
“Rabelais and Rimbaud,” I thought, “Well, no wonder.”
“Try Billy Collins,” I suggested,
and wrote it down for him.

“Tonight is like an adventure with you,” he said,
handing me my bag and receipt.
“What’s your name?” I asked
and was not surprised when he replied,
with solemn, formal, introduction,
“Call me Ishmael.”

— © Quinn McDonald, All rights reserved. 2016

The Town With No Address

Town With No Address 1, © Quinn McDonald, 2016. All rights reserved.

Town With No Address 1, © Quinn McDonald, 2016. All rights reserved.

Every time I fly from Phoenix to Houston, I see what looks like towns that were started and abandoned. What’s odd about it, is there are quite a few of these areas, all in one area, and that area is bleak and surrounded by miles of nothing.

Judging from how long we had been in the air, the towns with no address are somewhere in Western New Mexico or West to Central Texas.  There are roads, all direct, none beautifully sculpted. There are flat rectangles that look like foundations. No houses, though. No cars. Nothing that would indicate future building.  No machinery, no large buildings that indicate malls or stores.

Towns With No Address 2. © Quinn McDonald, 2016. All rights reserved

Towns With No Address 2. © Quinn McDonald, 2016. All rights reserved

Each of these areas also have small and medium rectangles of water, some of it alarmingly turquoise.  Some dark. Not pools.  Simply sitting in the area of these towns.

There’s a lot not to know. Maybe it is related to mining activity. Maybe it’s some sort of oil/gas/exploration. I don’t know. But I’m curious.

But it’s interesting, these abandoned spaces in stretches of nowhere. From a graphic view, visually interesting. Curious.

Sometimes you have to be OK with not knowing.

Note: These are not towns. I discovered they were fracking sites. The “foundations” are fracking pads.

Learning to Laugh at Yourself

Yes, the old site is being put back into service. It makes sense to post my poetry and artwork here. I wanted to have one site, but I cover a lot of ground, from art to poetry, to business writing and development. It’s a lot to expect people to understand. I needed a home for poetry, and as I move toward becoming a practitioner of poetic medicine, a place to talk about the power of poetry.

I’m also making my alcohol ink artwork available for sale, on the Art Gallery page.

For today, a poem about love and the importance of laughing at yourself instead of focusing on your love’s shortcomings.

Life Skating
It’s easier to fall in love than stay in love.
Much like skating requires learning to fall
Before you master gliding steadily ahead;
Easily, without windmilling arms
And grasping fingers.

Fall-in-love behaviors, (labeled dreamily, “exotic,”)
Slowly morph to “just annoying.”
The trick, just like in skating,
Is adjusting my Center of Gravity.

Squinting to find a polished patch of long-term love
under all those randomly-strewn shortcomings,
heading for that, jumping over unstable, glistening failures,
finding the direction by listening for
The really rich, full-throated laughing at myself.

© Quinn McDonald, 2016. All rights reserved. Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach.